Friday, November 21, 2008

I beg your pardon

I never promised you a rose garden.

I've been told that there is a post card from Janet Frame for sale on the auction site Trade Me.

The front picture is of a rose garden near Levin.

I was approached and asked to "authenticate" the postcard, but of course I'm no more able to vouch for its authenticity than anyone else. It was written to a stranger, nobody I have ever heard of, and signed with the formal writing name "Janet Frame" - a clear hint that if it is genuine, Janet was just generously giving an autograph to someone whose fan letters had moved her in some way.

She did that kind of thing. She couldn't reply to all her fan mail, but sometimes she did reach out to someone who had touched her in some way.

"Many thanks for your perceptive letters" is written on the card, all in a style and presentation that does look very like Janet's.

I know she favoured that particular Levin postcard, because I received at least one of the same model from her myself. In fact every time she found a new rose garden postcard she sent it to me. And when she found a postcard she liked she bought a stack of them, so it's possible lots of other people got rose garden postcards too!

Janet often used to sing the song "I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden". I think I've already mentioned in an earlier post that the first time she sent me a post card of a rose garden, she had written on the back "I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden!"

That was in 1972 when I was working part-time at the Auckland University Library, and I was very embarrassed by the fact that Janet had addressed the postcard to me care of the Library. Just a humble shelver getting mail at the Library! I was very shy, and was mortified that one of the Librarians had to come looking for me up in the European languages section where I worked, to deliver the postcard. I was told quite sternly that it was inappropriate for a casual student worker to be receiving mail at the Library.

The message "I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden" was very apt on that occasion, and over the years it became somewhat of a theme. As she used to gleefully warble:"Along with the sunshine, you gotta take a little rain sometime."

But the only person who could "authenticate" the Trade Me rose garden would be the late author herself, and possibly the recipient, who sadly seems to have also passed away (the card was found in an estate lot of books).

In any case the Frame Estate has a firm policy of discouraging any request for authentication of memorabilia that is destined for private sale. This is not our business or our duty at all. If an item doesn't have a clear provenance then we are not going to be able to speak with any authority anyway.

Apparently there are organisations in the USA that offer an autograph verification service for a fee, but they don't harass Estates for an imprimatur - they use digital recognition technology and ink diagnosis and so forth.

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